Although the NATO transit routes through Pakistan have reopened, relations between Pakistan and the U.S. are still tense with many issues still unresolved. An Obama aide lashed out at Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman for criticizing NATO.
Obama aide Douglas Lute condemned Pakistani ambassador Sherry Rehman for statements she made about Taliban launching attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Lute and Rehman had been discussing cross border attacks. The U.S. has constantly criticized Pakistan for not doing enough to control militants in the tribal areas who launch attacks in Afghanistan.
Rehman mentioned that there have also been attacks by Taliban from Afghanistan in Kunar province into Pakistan killing a number of Pakistani troops in the Swat Valley. Rehman claims that there have been 52 attacks in the last 8 months. Pakistan had provided the U.S. and NATO with details about the locations from which militants attacked. Rehman said that NATO seemed unable or unwilling to kill or dislodge them. This is a mirror image of the argument used by the U.S. to justify drone attacks in the tribal areas.
Lute was angry and snapped back: “There’s no comparison of the Pakistani Taliban’s relatively recent, small-in-scale presence inside Afghanistan to the decades-long experience and relationship between elements of the Pakistani government and the Afghan Taliban ..To compare these is simply unfair.”
While no doubt the problem of militants going from Pakistan to Afghanistan is more severe than the other way around, Rehman's remarks refer to a genuine problem for Pakistan as well. What really bothers Lute is no doubt the fact that Pakistan has always hedged its bets by retaining relations with certain groups of Taliban in Pakistan. The U.S. in the past funded militant Islamists of precisely these types including Bin Laden when they were attacking the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan's use of the same strategy is regarded as traitorous since it does not advance the aims of the U.S.
Rehman also criticized the U.S. for continuing drone attacks claiming that the attacks added to Pakistan's problems. She said that as well as fueling anti-U.S. feelings they helped recruit more terrorists.The issue may be fatal for the present government in the next elections as the attacks are opposed by over ninety per cent of the Pakistani population:The exchange between Rehman and Lute happened at an Aspen Security Forum meeting at the Aspen Institute in Colorado.
Opposition to drone attacks is increasing among politicians in some countries. A number of Danish MPs have condemned the attacks. A group of 12 UK parliamentarians have written a letter to Obama urging him to stop the attacks. The Pakistani parliament has passed several motions demanding the attacks cease. Cessation of attacks was also set as a condition for reopening NATO supply routes. However when the routes reopened there was a drone attack shortly afterwards. Pakistan claims that there is no agreement for the attacks to resume. The official position remains that they are a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. However Pakistan has done nothing to stop the attacks.
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